A recommended reading list for our new Prime Minister
A recommended reading list for our new Prime Minister
Dear Mr. Johnson,
Congratulations: you’ve made it to Downing Street. After years of careful campaigning, Machiavellian manoeuvring and dangling from broken zip wires, the keys to power are finally yours.
As you settle down for your first full week in charge, we thought we’d recommend a little reading for the downtime you get between carefully studying policy papers and standing up to Brussels.
No, not Flashman or Greek mythology or A Little Pocket Book of Latin Phrases – these are books very much rooted in the Great Britain of 2019, shining a light into important issues all politicians should know about.
We hope it helps.
Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story by Leah Hazard (2019)
‘Another night, another vagina.’ So opens Leah Hazard's wry and unflinching memoir of a career on the frontline of the NHS. But it's about more than just the blood and beauty of delivering life; it's also about what it's really like to work in a system at breaking point. No sleep for 20 hours, no food for ten and barely time to go to the loo, Hazard’s job is both back-straining and brain-draining.
Over six years in Scotland, she delivers hundreds of babies and cares for thousands of women, all while resources and funding are being brutally cut. And yet despite the pressures, Hazard paints a beautiful picture of camaraderie shared by people who work together under the sort of pressure few other jobs carry. Hard Pushed is a timely reminder that our NHS couldn’t operate without passionate staff working at the edge of their limits, and that we ought to do everything we can to look after them – so they can look after us.
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg (2019)
The exact same week you were named Prime Minister, Britain went through the hottest heatwave in its history. It’s almost as though the sun was trying to tell you something, wasn’t it?
In case the message wasn’t clear, why not pay closer attention to the teenage activist who has done more to get the climate emergency on the political agenda than most of the world’s politicians, Greta Thunberg. No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference is Thunberg’s rallying cry as well as the title of this collection of her already-historic speeches, which remind us: ‘Everything needs to change. And it has to start today’. It’s also small enough to keep in your suit pocket, should the whole environmental apocalypse thing start to slip from your mind.
Lowborn by Kerry Hudson (2019)
A long way from the leather-bound chairs and oak-panelled walls of Westminster, beyond the banker's bars and million-pound pied-à-terres of London, lies a country struggling with poverty: universal credit, food bank queues, zero-hours contracts and rising rents. Take it from Kerry Hudson, whose bracing memoir-cum-social-commentary Lowborn is an essential window into the Britain the political class often overlook.
Born into a working-class community in Scotland, Hudson attended nine primary schools and five secondaries as she and her single mum were pushed from B&B to council flat struggling to make ends meet. This is a story in part about a woman who got out of a life of hardship through grit and guile, but it's also an indictment of a country that still believes it has a fully-functioning welfare state where help is even harder to come by now than it was when she was young.
All That Is Solid: How the Great Housing Disaster Defines Our Times, and What We Can Do About It by Danny Dorling (2014)
In a country that fetishises property ownership, one in three of Britain's millennial generation will never own their own home, with many forced to live and raise families in insecure, privately rented accommodation for the rest of their lives.
If that shocks you – and it should – then Danny Dorling's All That Is Solid is not a book to read standing up. Fortunately, Dorling has plenty of ideas on how to fix this morass, such as the introduction of a national land tax and using the tax system to discourage second homes. It’s a bold call-to-arms to find a solution to an issue that has stifled a generation – and it needs a bold government to sit up and pay attention.
Pig Wrestling: The Brilliantly Simple Way to Solve Any Problem… and Create the Change You Need by Pete Lindsay and Mark Bawden (2018)
No, not a book about a dubious dining club initiation ceremony but a strategy guide designed for anyone facing a huge and difficult problem like, say, leading a country out of a union with its biggest trading partner.
The idea is simple: some problems are like pigs, and the more you wrestle with them the dirtier you both get. So you need to take the pig out of its pen – or 'reframe' the problem – to understand it more clearly. The brainchild of two performance psychologists who've worked with the likes of Manchester City and the England cricket squad (both of whom have done OK recently), Pig Wrestling outlines a method that can be used to solve even the most impossible of problems in the most complex and chaotic times. And we believe you may have one or two of those to get started on.
The author of What White People Can Do Next discusses her current recommended read on the Penguin Podcast: a fascinating, lesser-known narrative from 1861.
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